Monday, July 14, 2008

A Day at the Bay

I had been wanting to take Gabe on a boat ride, so on Friday we drove into the city to take a tour of the bay.

Traveling to the city involves making a series of decisions, most of them involving parking. First, do we want to drive or take a train? Drive, because I wanted to stop by my office while we were in town. Do we park near fisherman’s wharf, or farther away where parking is cheaper? Near the wharf, because we didn’t want to hoof it or take a bus. So we pulled into a parking garage behind Hooters just a block off the Embarcadero, which ended up charging us $16, even with validation.

We parked and headed to the waterfront, where we chanced upon the “Lovely Martha,” docked right at the street. A large man named Roger barked out an invitation to one and all to board and see the bay, only $15 per person.

“What do you think?” I asked my wife. Erika bit her lip, unwilling to commit. I paid and Roger helped Erika and Gabe board, while I dashed to Walgreen’s for some snacks. I returned to find that Erika had staked out a spot at the bow, next the canister holding the inflatable life raft. She sat rigid, eyes straight ahead, as if her very life depended on maintaining that posture.

Mind you, we hadn’t even left the dock yet.

Shortly after 12:30 p.m. we felt a rumbling beneath our feet. A lovely Irish woman cast off and took the helm. Was this Lovely Martha herself?

We left the shelter of the harbor and headed into the bay, where it immediately got choppy. The boat chugged sluggishly eastward toward the bridge while Lovely Martha’s voice lilted through a loud speaker directly over our heads, telling us about Coit Tower and Russian Hill, and how many miles of cable are in the Golden Gate Bridge. It all got whipped away by the wind and sea spray, leaving us no more enlightened at the end of the trip than we were at the beginning, though I did manage to hear that the 89,000 miles of cable in the bridge are enough to encircle the Earth three times.

I pointed out sailboats and fishing boats and ferries to Gabe and encouraged him to grab onto the rail and look over the edge as we crashed through hills and troughs of ocean and felt the spray bite our cheeks. Gabe was entranced; he was especially interested in the buoys.

A brisk wind buffeted us and made us glad we had remembered our sweaters, but sad we hadn’t thought of jackets. The bridge off in the distance was half shrouded by fog. I asked Erika to take my picture, and she looked ready to smack me.

“Do not ask me to turn around,” she hissed. I got up, handed her the camera, and stood directly in front of her so she wouldn’t have to move.

We passed under the arches of the bridge and could hear the clanking of cars driving above our heads. As we passed under the bridge the water got choppier. The Irish lilt told us to hold on as we began a slow turn to starboard. A helicopter overhead flew under the bridge, no doubt to the delight of the tourists aboard.

We headed back into the bay and now that the wind was at our backs the ride felt smoother and warmer. I felt for the passengers seated at the stern, because now they were getting the brunt of it.

As we came around Alcatraz Island, the Irish lilt imparted information that no doubt would have delighted us if we had understood it, but we did not. I explained to Gabe that this had been a prison, then I had to explain what a prison was. As we rounded the island a large sign proclaimed that those aiding and abetting escaped prisoners would be subject to prosecution and imprisonment.

From Alcatraz it was a straight shot back to the harbor. As we backed into our berth Erika’s head finally turned, for the first time in an hour.

We next scoured the area for a place to eat, and I decided Erika deserved something nice-ish for being such a trouper, so we settled on Tarantino’s. Erika ordered mahi mahi, which was delicious, while I decided to try the sand dabs, which our menu declared were a local favorite. Gabe had chicken fingers, which has become his standby every time we go out. Our table overlooked the dock where Lovely Martha gently rocked, awaiting her next load of passengers. A fishing boat was docked nearby, where a lucky angler stood cradling a four-foot shark in his arms.

Our window also overlooked the stretch of the Embarcadero where the Bush man plies his trade. His brand of street theater consists of holding a pair of tree branches and crouching down, then startling unsuspecting passers by. This seems to be a singularly asinine way to make a living, but it turned out to be unbelievably entertaining. The women lunching at a table near ours were able to predict with a high degree of accuracy which oncoming pedestrian would be startled next. Another table near ours watched with rapt attention, bursting into laughter every time the Bush man succeeded.

Erika was impressed enough to drop a dollar into the man’s tip jar as we walked back to the car. As we walked by he shouted out to some nearby tourists, “If you’re going to stand there and take my picture, please donate. If I took a picture of your bush you can bet your ass I’d give you a dollar.”

As we walked away I asked Gabe what his favorite part had been.

“The buoys,” he said. Go figure.

And what was Erika's favorite part of the boat ride? Getting off.


Paula said...

I'm with Erika, but kudos to her especially, and you for taking Gabe on his first boat ride. Sounds like an adventure.

Erika said...

I did really good. I didn't get sick. When we got out under the bridge the waves got ALOT choppier and all I wanted "Martha" to do was turned the frickin boat around. I think the wind helped. The guy next to me must have thought I was crazy or something cause I was just sitting looking straight ahead and humming loudly to myself. I was just trying to think of anything except getting sick. Seems to have worked.

Reenie's World said...

LOL Erika, the image of you sitting stone still humming to yourself makes me giggle.

I get sea sick too. You sure are a trooper though for hanging out on a boat with your boys!